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Good Morning! It’s Friday, March 12. After a couple wet, gloomy days, we’ll have a mostly sunny day with a high of 61.

All eyes are on recovery, with good news coming from local and national leaders. County health officials expect to further ease COVID restrictions in the coming weeks with herd immunity possibly setting in by late spring. Nationally, President Joe Biden signed a $1.9 trillion stimulus bill that will send billions to California coffers and at least $90 million to Santa Cruz County. Biden also announced in a national address that he is directing states to open up vaccinations to all adults by May 1.

Reopening in Santa Cruz County is moving full-steam ahead as football players took the field for the first game in 15 months last night. And bars, breweries and distilleries statewide will be able to open with new loosened restrictions beginning tomorrow. Beginning Monday, vaccines will be made available to Californians with underlying health conditions and disabilities.

In other news, local officials are offering low-cost vaccines and microchipping to pet owners as a rising number of distemper cases are being reported in wild animals on the Westside. At the statewide level, Recall Newsom backers say they have 2 million signatures which, if verified, could force a recall vote on the ballot later this year. And the owner of the Conception dive boat has sold its fleet after a flurry of lawsuits by families of victims of the devastating 2019 fire.

Before we get to the headlines, if you’re not already signed up for Lookout’s Breaking News Text Alerts, I highly recommend you do. When major news happens, we deliver those headlines right to your phone, so you can be in the know all the time. You can sign up for the free text alerts here or just text the word BREAKING to (831) 265-0158.

With that, here’s your news:

Santa Cruz County getting $90 million so far from Biden’s stimulus package. Here’s how it will be divided

Stacks of money
Credit: via Pixabay

President Joe Biden signed a $1.9 trillion stimulus bill yesterday, allocating $350 billion to states and local governments. Of that pie, Santa Cruz County government and the county’s four cities are expecting about $90 million. While the aid will provide a financial lift, county officials still expect to grapple with budget shortfalls in the long run. In the short term, however, the money could help reduce mandatory furloughs for county employees. Our Patrick Riley received an early breakdown of how the money will be divided from Congressman Jimmy Panetta’s Office. Read more here.

RELATED: California’s robust budget will get another $26 billion from new COVID-19 stimulus (LA Times)

Newel: County could speed to orange tier by early April, achieve herd immunity by late spring

Natalie Dul and her trainer Delphine Houssin work out at Cabrillo Fitness.
Credit: Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz

County health officer Dr. Gail Newel shared loads of hopeful news during yesterday’s weekly COVID-19 update:

  • Santa Cruz County is on track to enter the orange tier in three weeks
  • A spring surge no longer appears imminent
  • It’s possible California could reach herd immunity by late spring

Despite the positive outlook, many uncertainties remain. Read more about what county health officials said yesterday, including a possible newly-created green tier, from our Mallory Pickett here.

THE BIG SPEECH: Meanwhile, just a couple hours after county officials gave residents good news, President Joe Biden took the national stage to give the country hope. During his address, he said he will be directing states to make vaccines available to all adults starting May 1. Read more from our partners in LA here.

How millions with disabilities, underlying conditions will get COVID-19 vaccines starting Monday: Next week, 4.4 million Californians with disabilities or underlying health conditions become eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine — and the state finally explained the process. Notably, the state is not requiring that eligible disabled or sick individuals present documentation of their condition. Read more from our partners at the LA Times here.

Reopening and Recovery: Thursday Night (Pandemic) Lights

Scotts Valley's Caden Stark kicks off Thursday night.
Scotts Valley’s Caden Stark kicks off Thursday night. Credit: Kevin Painchaud/Lookout Santa Cruz

MUST-READ | High School football returns with an eerie sense of promise: Last night marked the first night of high school football action in California in 15 months. At Santa Cruz County’s first game, there was plenty of rust on the field and plenty of oddities elsewhere — such as the empty stands where only a few crafty volunteer parents had a live view of the action. But there was a band. And there also was hope. Our Mark Conley and Kevin Painchaud were on hand as Scotts Valley beat St. Francis 12-0. But the score doesn’t really matter as much as the moment.

Gault Elementary in a flurry of preparations as youngest students set to return to classrooms Monday: Kindergarteners are set to return to Gault Elementary in Seabright on Monday to begin their hybrid in-person and remote learning, followed by older students the week after. In preparation, school officials are putting down tape markers on tables, setting out six-foot-wide hula hoops, new TV screens in classrooms, spacing out desks. Our Nick Ibarra and Kevin Painchaud took a look behind the scenes as the school prepares for students’ return. Here’s how school will look different this year.

MARK YOUR CALENDARS: Santa Cruz County school districts — all 10 — announce timelines for returns to some in-person learning (Lookout Santa Cruz)

Food restrictions will be lifted for breweries, wineries and distilleries starting tomorrow: Breweries, wineries and distilleries will soon be allowed to operate outdoors statewide — even if they don’t serve food. However, it won’t be business as usual for a long time. Our content partner the LA Times breaks it all down.

Statewide beat

California Governor Gavin Newsom
California Gov. Gavin Newsom Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

Political battle lines form as Newsom recall effort boasts 2 million signatures: Gov. Gavin Newsom will likely face a special election seeking his removal from office as recall backers say they have collected more than 2 million signatures on petitions to force a vote this year. The group needs almost 1.5 million signatures to qualify the recall. Read more about the effort and what Newsom’s critics and supporters say in this story from our partners at the LA Times.

Conception boat owner, criticized as ‘woefully underinsured,’ sells rest of fleet: The owner of the Conception dive boat that caught fire off the Channel Islands, killing 34 below deck, including five Santa Cruz County residents, has sold the two remaining boats in the fleet amid a flurry of new lawsuits filed by the victims’ families. The latest here.

Around the county . . .

County urges people to vaccinate dogs after dozens of distemper cases found in raccoons, coyotes (Lookout Santa Cruz)

UCSC police report burglaries of drones, laptops, other electronics from Coastal Science Campus (Lookout Santa Cruz)

Oral health professionals increase services, safety protocols as pandemic continues (Santa Cruz Sentinel)

Watsonville Buddhist Temple adapts during pandemic (The Pajaronian)

That’s it for today. If you’re enjoying our coverage, please tell your family and friends about our Lookout Newsletter & Text Center, where they can sign up for all the newsletters and alerts we offer. You can also keep tabs on everything we’re publishing through the day by bookmarking our website and following us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Have a great day!

Tulsi Kamath
Managing Editor

Follow Tulsi Kamath on: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn. Tulsi Kamath was the originator of Lookout Santa Cruz’s flagship Morning Lookout newsletter and its original Managing Editor.